When in Doubt, Best Stay Out
It’s that time of year again. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued a news release yesterday warning pet owners of toxic blue-green algae blooms in lakes and ponds.
A dog died during the weekend after swimming in Fox Lake in Martin County, apparently as a result of exposure to toxic blue-green algae. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the dog’s owner said the dog swam in the lake on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13, and was dead within hours.
Blue-green algae “blooms,” like those on Fox Lake and some other lakes around the state, can produce toxins. These toxins can be deadly to dogs or other animals if ingested, particularly when they clean themselves after contact with the water.
Blue-green blooms can occur throughout the summer, but the recent warm weather and lack of rain create ideal conditions for them. The MPCA has confirmed other blue-green blooms this summer but this was the season’s first apparent animal death attributed to them.
Algae are a vital natural part of the aquatic environment and most of them are harmless; but sometimes water conditions (typically in mid- to late-summer when warm, still, nutrient-rich water is common) favor blooms of algae species that can be harmful to mammals. Some (not all) blue-green algae produce toxins.
Because toxic conditions can arise quickly in algal blooms and because laboratory analysis is the only way to determine when a bloom is harmful – all blue-green algae blooms should be considered potentially dangerous.
Blooms are less toxic to people, who typically just develop skin irritation or upper respiratory problems when they’ve been exposed to harmful algal blooms. But dogs and other animals can die very quickly after ingesting water containing the toxins. If you suspect your pet has ingested water containing blue-green algae you must get him to a vet immediately.
MPCA offers this advice on identifying blue-green algae blooms:
Research has identified the conditions listed below that tend to occur along with a harmful algal bloom. If you observe these conditions on your lake or pond, it is best to avoid contact with the water and keep pets and children out of the water until the bloom dissipates.
- Very low transparency, Secchi often 1.5 foot or less;
- Very high chlorophyll-a concentrations, generally greater than 30-50 ppb; and
- Very high pH, generally 9.0 or greater.
For those of you who don’t have a background in hydrology or geochemistry, the page includes several helpful photographs of blue-green algae blooms as well as photographs of harmless species that are often confused with them. Click photo for link:
Have a pet-related business? MPCA also offers this free pdf format poster on the dangers of blue-green algae. I’m getting one printed up in large format for the training room.